Live and Learn – Week 2

07Apr08

I was the last to arrive at our apartment, and therefore I have the smallest room. But I was grateful at the same time because at one particular spot in the room, you can connect to UW’s wireless internet. Our building is literally right next door to the UW Rome Center, and although some students have really nice apartments with beautiful bathrooms and kitchens, we have a decently nice apartment with WiFi. So I guess we win. But lately we haven’t been able to connect to the internet from our apartment, so that’s kind of disappointing. But there’s also good news — we have hot water!

Living here is a nice change. Of course I miss everybody at home, but it’s nice to kind of be “out on my own.” I don’t consider it a bad thing, but I think I’ve been kind of sheltered and dependent and I feel like it’s good for me to be out here meeting new people and experiencing a different culture. With that said, my roommates and I have felt a little homesick lately (and I know it’s only been a week), so we ate at a Chinese restaurant the other day and even had some McDonald’s. There’s a lot of good food here, but sometimes you just want fries and chicken nuggets. If there’s one thing that’s really different about eating in Italy versus eating in America, it’s that it is a lot slower over here. People take their time to sit and eat, and it’s not uncommon for you to spend three hours out at dinner. Even fast food places are a bit slower. For example, our cashier at McDonald’s was interesting. After we ordered our food, he slowly and neatly placed our food on a tray to give to us. Before laying down the fries, he unfolded a napkin and then placed the fries on top of it so that the fries wouldn’t touch the actual tray (even though the tray already had a placemat on it). When we ordered fries to go, he wrapped the fries with a couple napkins and then put them in a to-go bag.

It’s not just the dining experience that’s different over here. In America, things are bigger, faster, louder, and more convenient. Over here, most people drive tiny smartcars or vespas (SUV’s are strictly American) and they take their time to do most things (eat, walk, fix the hot water). In Italy (and probably many other countries) they’re very accepting of the fact that you only speak English. A lot of the people will try to work with you and use any English that they know to help you out, as opposed to you having to struggle to speak Italian. A lot of Americans adopt the “You’re in America, so learn English!” attitude, and then don’t even try to speak the native language when visiting another country. My roommates and I have had discussions about how Americans are kind of spoiled and selfish and expect to get exactly what they want — egocentricity abounds. So this is a good learning experience.

Today we had our first lessons in Italian and Art History from Ricardo de Mambros Santos (who’s amazing by the way; he knows everything about the city and is fluent in Italian, and he’s not even from here..he’s Brazilian). It’s like he imparts wisdom with every word he says, and our brains can’t process fast enough to remember everything. But one of the things he emphasized in lecture today was that Rome has experienced a continuous metamorphosis. Many existing features of the city today are examples of the old being reused to create the new. The Colosseum used to be the location of a manmade lake. The Piazza Navona used to be an arena for horse racing — in the Middle Ages, instead of destroying the arena, people turned it into houses and today the piazza still retains the shape of the arena floor. People took marble from the exterior of the Colosseum and also used it to create houses. A lot of pagan temples have been turned into Christian churches by Emperor Constantine. Even early depictions of Jesus (not his face, but his clothing and raised hand) were created based on previous images of Roman Emperors — Emeperor Augustus was depicted with a raised hand and scroll, his common stature when addressing the people, and was dressed in robes; Jesus is depicted as raising his hand to bless the people and is also dressed in robes. A lot of the symbols and codes used before Christianity were transformed and given new meaning to aid in the transition from being a Pagan to being a Christian.

There’s a lot to learn, I know…and that was only a fraction of it.

The market in Campo de Fiori

The midnight parade of people in yellow jackets. I don’t know if this happens often, but it was kinda cool.

 

Myself and a weird fountain

Along the Tiber River

Santa Maria in Trastevere

This is all really old and I’m sorry I don’t know more about it

The ceiling inside the church

The windows of the church

The altar

Roommate Laura and I at the Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi

All of my roommates except for Erica. The girls from the nice apartment had a little get together for everyone in class.

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